Wednesday, December 11, 2013

South Texas GCSA Annual Meeting: A model for success

Fall is annual meeting season in the South Central region, along with many parts of the country. One of the great things about this blog is that it gives us the opportunity to brag when one of our chapters is doing something exceptional. This is definitely the case with the South Texas GCSA and the very organized and professional manner in which its annual business meeting is conducted.

The chapter's annual meeting was held in November at Sweetwater Country Club in Houston. More than 70 members attended the event, which also featured a golf tournament at the club. The South Texas GCSA packs a lot of business and recognition into the meeting, and the leadership does a great job of keeping it moving and meaningful. While each chapter should tailor its meetings to its unique needs, the framework and features of the South Texas GCSA meeting work well for this large and very active organization.

Following are some of the meeting highlights:
  • Chapter President Sean Wilson did a great job presiding over the meeting and reviewing the events and news that affected STGCSA members over the past year. He thanked the members for their support, feedback and participation. Wilson introduced the 2013 board and officers and credited them for the success of the chapter during the year.
  • Candidates for the board, including officers, were asked to give a short introduction and explain why they wanted to serve the association. These presentations were brief but meaningful to the voters.
  • Tenure pins were awarded to members who reached five-year membership milestones. What a great idea! It is a special moment that members appreciate.
  • Three candidates were nominated for the inaugural Sonny DuBose Award, the chapter's highest honor, which recognizes the member who best exemplifies the dedication and commitment to the chapter and profession that DuBose was known for during his career. The heartfelt nomination letters of George Cincotta, superintendent at Riverbend CC, John Freeman of Brookside Equipment, and Carl Tolbert of The Hurt Company, were read aloud to the entire membership. The winner will be announced at the next event in January.
  • The typically routine "handing over of the gavel" was also a symbolic and meaningful gesture. The current president presented the incoming president with not only the reins of the chapter, but also a president's blazer, reserved only for members who have reached this leadership level.
  • Wilson made a special point to recognize Marian Takushi, chapter executive, and lead the members in a round of applause. A real classy move - every chapter knows that an outstanding chapter executive is one of the biggest keys to success. 
  • Blayne Sparks
  • Incoming president Blayne Sparks offered a preview of a productive and exciting 2014. The day was so meaningful to him that he included his father in the meeting and thanked him for his support and guidance. The elder Sparks came all the way from Baton Rouge Louisiana to be in attendance and see his son honored.
I enjoyed attending this meeting and appreciate all the special touches the leadership of the chapter takes each year to make it productive and memorable. I'd recommend other chapters take a look at a few of these and consider working them into their routine!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Aggie campus course opening

Maybe I’m a little biased – okay, I’m a lot biased. As a proud member of the Fighting Texas Aggie Class of 1985 (Whoop!), I was thrilled to be invited to an event hosted by Ewing and Hunter Irrigation at the recently renovated Texas A&M University Campus Golf Course. Renovation is actually an understatement as the course was completely “gutted” and every square inch of the 1952 version rebuilt.

The multi-million dollar renovation was a collaborative project between Texas A&M University, Sterling Golf and Golf Course Architect Jeff Blume - Aggie Class of ’89.  Blume and Landscapes Unlimited were charged with the task of designing and building a course that would help the university reach its goal of creating the “best on-campus golf course anywhere.” Critical to the success of the project were the industry partners involved, including Landscapes Unlimited, Ewing Irrigation, John Deere, Hunter Irrigation and many more.

The event was kicked off with an educational session that included welcoming remarks from Ewing, Hunter and Sterling Golf representatives. The two highlight presentations were from the course designer, Jeff Blume, and the Texas A&M vice president of student affairs, Lieutenant General Joe Weber.

Blume spoke of the great honor to be selected as the course designer on land considered hallowed by Aggies. His design was inspired by classic golf course architecture, specifically work by Charles B. Macdonald and Donald Ross. The course includes elevated greens, gently sloping fairways, and 154 bunkers used to frame and define the fairways – not to punish the golfer or the superintendent. Most of the bunkers are very small and will require minimal maintenance.

Lt-Gen Weber spoke with great pride of the project that has been in the works for more than 15 years. He spoke of the new “front door” of the University that will now welcome current and former students, and the Texas golf community. Weber was also very proud of the way the course was built under a very tight budget and will be operated in a financially responsible manner.  

All speakers spoke very highly of GCSAA members Carter Hindes and Tanner Light. Carter is the director of agronomy for Sterling Golf and oversaw the project from the first shovel being turned. Tanner Light is the golf course superintendent and charged with maintaining the Mini-verde greens and wall-to-wall Celebration bermudagrass. Carter created a terrific account of the construction process on his blog:

There were no Johnny Football sightings that day, but I was privileged to play golf with a Class of 85 classmate – Johnny Walker. We braved two rain delays and very soggy conditions but were both able to break 80 on the very challenging course – thanks to the fact that we skipped 3 holes in order to finish before the heaviest rain.

This course will be a shining star for years to come in the Texas golf community. I enjoyed the course very much and appreciated the opportunity to be invited to this special event. Thanks to Curtis Bruton of Ewing Irrigation for the invitation and a great day. The improvement to the course and the overall A&M campus will make every Aggie proud and excited about the opportunity to tee it up.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tribute to a North Texas GCSA friend

I always learn something new at chapter events. Usually it’s about a new turf management technique, an equipment innovation that has solved a unique problem, or just the latest news and happenings among our members in the South Central region. But earlier this month in Fort Worth, I learned about something much more important than agronomy, management solutions or news. I learned about a friendship and a special bond that existed between two superintendents for almost 20 years. I also learned more about a great superintendent I had known for a quarter century.

Many of you in the South Central region know that in October, the North Texas chapter lost one of its legendary members when Garry Bearden passed away from complications related to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Garry was only 66 and had just completed his 40th year of service as superintendent at Ridglea CC - Championship Course.  He had planned to retire at the end of this year to spend time with his wife, Elaine, and his two granddaughters. Garry's funeral service was an awesome tribute that provided tremendous insight into his life outside of golf. He will be missed by many, many people.

It is well known that golf course superintendents have a long tradition of mentorship and camaraderie. The unique nature of the work and our industry often foster enduring friendships, which is truly one of the greatest benefits of the profession. Because of a fortunate golf pairing at the North Texas GCSA Scholarship Tournament at River Crest CC, I had the opportunity to play with Garry's closest friend and coworker, Duane Janssen, superintendent at Ridglea CC - Family Course.

Duane has been at Ridglea for 19 years and worked side by side with Garry for most of that time. Everyone knows that the two were close friends and often inseparable at chapter events and conferences - it was rare to see one without the other. Despite a 20+ year age difference, the two were the best of friends on and off the course.

Duane spoke emotionally about the friend he considered his mentor, partner, confidant and brother, offering amazing and warm memories, stories and “Beardenisms.” I was especially touched by the story of the day Duane informed Garry’s staff and crew that Garry's disease was quite serious and his chance of survival was bleak. The crew showed an outpouring of emotion and love for their leader, and they showed up in mass to Garry’s funeral. There is no doubt that this is the ultimate tribute to a golf course superintendent by the men and women who worked for him.

I am proud to have known Garry, privileged to have spent time with him and his family the day he passed away, and honored that Duane shared so much with me on the golf course that day. Thank you Duane, for making that day special.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Water Auditing In Arkansas

GCSA Arkansas members conduct a green water
audit at Fayetteville CC
One of the really cool parts of my job as South Central field staff is all the great education presentations that I see at chapter events. In October, at the GCSA of Arkansas annual meeting, attendees were treated to an informative talk and demonstration of basic water auditing techniques and methods. Jason Cook, CID (Certified Irrigation Designer), CLIA (Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor), provided members with practical information that they were able to take back to their courses and use immediately. 

Water auditing provides many benefits not limited to the opportunity to save water and associated pumping power. For a course committed to responsible environmental management and water conservation, auditing is an essential Best Management Practice. Water auditing is the process of measuring irrigation system performance to determine water use efficiency.
From these calculations, management decisions and system modifications can be considered to better utilize the system and apply water as precisely as possible. Issues with factors such as station run time, cycle scheduling, nozzle selection, head spacing and many others can be identified and addressed with routine water audits. Members in attendance were very enthusiastic about the demonstration and are now prepared to initiate a water audit at their home courses.

The highlight of the presentation was an on-course audit demonstration on the 9th green at Fayetteville Country Club. Members measured a grid and placed catch can devices on 10-foot centers across the entire surface of the green. All four sprinkler heads that irrigate the green were operated for 10 minutes. The water collected during the run time was then precisely measured and analyzed to determine the distribution uniformity for the system. 

For more information about water auditing, I suggest a search of “water audit” on the website. Or visit the Course section, and select "Water conservation" under the Environment heading. I found many very good articles from the GCM archives and several irrigation related webcasts. There are also several irrigation management seminars planned for the 2014 GCSAA Education Conference in Orlando. Registration for these seminars and the conference opens November 5th!

Greenside irrigation running during the irrigation audit of #9 green. In the interest of time for this demonstration, all four heads were run at the same time. Typically, heads would run independently.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Welcome to the South Central regional page

Welcome to the brand-new GCSAA South Central regional page! I am very excited to share all the latest news and information from the region. As the GCSAA field representative in this region since 2011, I have had the opportunity to observe many interesting agronomic and management techniques, experience innovative chapter initiatives and events, and interact with so many fantastic GCSAA members in the region. I look forward to sharing these experiences with you on a routine basis on this blog.

In 2013, my travels have taken me to the far reaches of the region I am proud to serve. From Fort Smith, Ark.; Seminole, Texas; and Albuquerque, N.M.; to Enid, Okla.; Jackson, Miss.; and Baton Rouge, La., I have enjoyed every mile of the adventure. I am privileged to work closely with the 10 very strong affiliated chapters. 

The South Central region runs the gamut of climates and agronomic conditions. Much of the region has been gripped by a historic drought for the past several years, and I have seen a significant wave of environmental awareness by the members and chapters in the region. Water conservation leads the list of these important issues that affect every golf course and member in the region. I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with superintendents as they strive to become better stewards of the precious resources they manage.

Please check back regularly to keep up with the blog and see what we are up to in the South Central region. If you have any suggestions or feedback, please shoot me an email at or comment on the blog page. It will be great to have you along in the passenger seat: Buckle up!